Managing the iTunes Plus Upgrade Process

3 February 2009

If you haven’t modified any of the tags for the music you previously bought from the iTunes Store, then the tags for the Plus replacements should match. The Plus tracks will have a new Date Added but otherwise will appear the same. The average user will be unaware of the change.

Fiddlers like myself will get into trouble if they simply do an upgrade as the tags won’t match. I always make sure my purchased music has a release date, that the album name and track number is correct (free song-of-the-week titles are usually wrong). I complete the tagging of music videos (usually they have a name and little else). I may replace the album art with one of my superior scans. You get the idea. Here are my recommendations for upgrading, all of which I followed in my own recent upgrade.

Download on a Different Computer or Library

My library is on my desktop machine. I downloaded on my laptop, which I use as a workspace to tag music before I merge it with the main library. The laptop is authorised for my iTunes Store account as is the desktop. The songs to upgrade are tracked by the Store from its own records, not based on the presence of any tracks in the library you are working with, so you can download to a different computer, even if the original songs are not there.

Alternatively, if you don’t have a secondary computer to work with, you can create a new, separate library to download to. Quit iTunes, then relaunch while holding down the Option key (Mac) or Shift key (Windows). This will bring up a dialog where you can choose an existing library or create a new one. Create one on the desktop for ease of finding in a later step. Log into the iTunes Store, click the iTunes Plus link, buy what you want (you can select what you want to upgrade now–you’re not forced to upgrade everything) and download it.

Merging with the Main Library

In this step you’ll add the new files to the existing library for checking against the originals.

If you’re using the double-library approach, quit iTunes and relaunch while holding down Option or Shift. Choose the main library. Once iTunes has launched, create a new static playlist called iTunes Upgrade. Open the iTunes library folder on the desktop. Burrow down to the iTunes Music folder and drag that folder into the new iTunes Upgrade playlist. If you downloaded on another machine, get the files across by any convenient method and drag into the playlist. As soon as one track has finished copying, hold down the Command key (Mac) or Control key (Windows) and click the checkbox next to the name. This will uncheck all the tracks and prevent them from being synced to your iPod or Apple TV before you’ve finished editing them.

Editing the Tags

Now you’ve got two sets of files: the original 128kbps protected files and the new 256kbps Plus files. Sort the playlist by Album and find the first album in the main body of the library. Change the tags of the Plus song to match that of the Protected song if necessary.

Empty the trash. Click the Plus song and delete it. Don’t empty the trash. Right-click the remaining original protected song and select Show in Finder (Mac) or Show in Windows Explorer (Windows). This will open a window with the actual file location of the song. Drag the Plus file out of the trash and put it in the song folder. Throw the protected file in the trash and empty it.

Now you’ve broken the link to the song in iTunes because you’ve deleted the file but not the database record. We do this to preserve the Date Added value, because this cannot be changed unlike other values such as Date Last Played.

Click on the song and Get Info. iTunes will tell you it can’t find it and ask if you want to locate it. You do. Navigate to the Plus version in the original location and click the Open button. Now you’ll see the Get Info dialog for that song. iTunes will also update the record to reflect that the song is now 256kbps but other metadata such as Last Played, Play Count, Rating and of course, Date Added are unchanged.

Special Considerations

This is the main procedure. You may find that the original tracks are no longer available and you may be offered an alternative, or (theoretically) they will be ignored in the upgrade process. For more on this, refer to my earlier post.

Be careful with the Finder/Explorer hack, especially the step where you choose the “lost” file. If you choose the wrong one you’ll change the record in iTunes and you’ll have a duplicate on your hands. Fixing it is messy. You would have to select the two duplicate records and delete them, which will put the file in the trash. Drag it back into iTunes and you’ll recover it to the original album, but you’ll lose all that lovely metadata for both the original song and the one you were trying to map. You’ll have to also drag the song you were trying to map to into iTunes.

Summary

I’ll admit that it’s a bit of work and if you have bought an awful lot of songs it probably isn’t worth it, but for perfectionists like myself who haven’t bought much, I think it’s a good idea from the perspective of maintaining valuable metadata.

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Apple TV Upgrading Update

5 May 2008

If you read my post regarding my woes with upgrading Apple TV, you may have been put off on doing so yourself. Well, I rang Apple (I bought AppleCare for this privilege) and it was good to find out that I was in the minority with regard to video choking, which was my biggest issue. The suggested remedy was to restore, then upgrade again. Apparently, 1.0 (or whatever shipped with the Apple TV) is stored in a partition and is not overwritten by later versions, so that’s why mine was restoring to 1.0.

I did this and it appears to have resolved the choking issue, plus a similar issue with audio choking when syncing was being done concurrently.


Fun with Apple TV Upgrading

21 February 2008

My recent upgrade experience with Apple TV was fraught with problems. I may be in the minority, in fact, I hope I am.

The download and installation went fine. I then settled back to enjoy the new features. It kept locking up (failing to register button presses) at many places in the interface. Internet content (thumbnails, previews, trailers) was slow to download, but I’ve got a 24Mbit/ps connection and it shouldn’t be that slow. It restarted itself about 4 times. I eventually worked out that it would most often crash when being synced. On at least one occasion I wasn’t doing anything when this happened, but it seems that doing any internet activity while iTunes continually tries to jump in and sync gave it a lot of problems. Letting it start to sync then stopping it in iTunes made iTunes stop trying for an extended time and I was able to do some browsing.

The iTunes Store looked good, but I wasn’t able to buy anything! I kept getting the error message “The iTunes Store could not be contacted.” This is despite being able to buy content with my two Macs and the iPod Touch. I rang Apple on this and was put through to the hardware department (I couldn’t decide if it was a hardware or iTunes Store issue). They couldn’t help because it was outside its 90-day phone support period! I was pretty annoyed about this. This is an unusual situation–isn’t 2.0 essentially a new device, even though the hardware isn’t new? That’s how I saw it.

As a possible solution, I restored it to factory settings. I didn’t realise that this meant version 1.0! Think about that–it means that 1.0 is still living on the drive, with the software update taking up additional room. I completely expected 2.0 to overwrite 1.0. I guess this means that if you wanted to roll back to whatever version came with it, you could restore and achieve this same effect.

So I had to download the 2.0 again and install it again. Luckily, it hasn’t crashed since the second installation. I let it sync everything first before using it so that it wouldn’t get interrupted. Syncing still causes glitches. If I start playing a video and iTunes decides to check at that point to see if it needs syncing, the video will choke. Doesn’t happen all the time, but iTunes sure is a spanner in the works. I really wish Apple would now pour their attention into the performance of the hardware. When the swoosh of the main menu giving way to a sub menu halts midway, then jerkily completes the animation, or repeated button pressing to simply move the cursor results in no response, it’s a bad experience.

It’s clear that Apple is getting more serious about Apple TV, with this major update, HD content and rentals, so I’m confident that these issues can be addressed and my beloved device won’t fade into obscurity. It’s our responsibility as Apple TV owners to continue to give Apple feedback so they know what isn’t working. Don’t forget to give them some praise sometimes.

Update: It’s been a lot better since the restore. Hasn’t crashed. It does choke near the beginning of every second or third video I play, which it never did before, even with the same files. The video sticks and the remote becomes unresponsive, like it’s trying to catch up. Perhaps it’s a buffering situation. Anyway, I can backtrack a few seconds when it comes alive again and view the choked section. I can hardly ring up Apple and tell them that my ripped DVD tracks aren’t playing properly!